This Sunday is the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings are from Isaiah 58:7-10; Psalm 112:4-9; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5; and Matthew 5:13-16.
“Man is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, [and he] cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” This quote from the Vatican II document on the Church in the Modern World has become one of my favorite things to meditate on. At first glance, it sounds lovely. You find yourself by giving of yourself. But when it comes to actually living this out, it can be really painful. The sacrifice that is involved in giving of yourself – whether it is in marriage, parenting, friendship, work, etc. – does not always feel beautiful at the moment. However, the grace that is borne when we pour ourselves out in service of another can produce more spiritual fruit than we even know. The prophet Isaiah says in the first reading, “If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday” (Is 58:10). Self-giving love is the answer to overcoming the darkness in ourselves and in our world.
Just an hour ago, there were girls that came up to visit the Spiritual Life Center and told me about a mission trip they were going on this summer. They had attended the same trip last summer and were excited to do it again. I asked them what the trip was like. “Oh, gosh, we had to crawl under this woman’s house for hours and wear these hot suits to repair her insulation. The church we slept in had no showers, and we had to share an air mattress.” While the conditions they described sounded pretty miserable, the smiles on their faces told a different story. They went on, “But it was so, so fulfilling. The woman whose house we worked on was so sweet. We got to play soccer with the neighbor kids! We can’t wait to go back again!” Becoming like Christ certainly does not guarantee the most comfortable situations, but it gives us the chance to share His glory and be a sign of His love when we become the light of the world and salt of the earth.